When we can’t see…..

When we can’t see……

When we can’t see why bad things happen…..

When we can’t see why bad things happen to good people.
When we don’t want…..

When we don’t want these bad things to happen……

When we don’t want to deal with the pain and grief of these bad things

When we don’t want to wrestle with the why question. Why God?
When we don’t think……

When we don’t think we can handle one.more.day……

When we get angry at God thinking He must not care because….

When we don’t get it.

When we don’t understand God’s plans and it makes us doubt.

When we want to…..

When we want to scream and holler and throw things…..

When we want to scream at God and say, “God, why don’t you do something?”
And we just hear silence

And more silence.

And the sound of our tear drops is the only noise that breaks the silence.
Until we hear a still, small voice.

“I’m here. I’ve got you. Trust me.”

“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”

TJV

I can just hear it now.

You’re sitting in the lunch room at work (or any sort of similar place) and the topic turns to what you all did over the weekend.

The stories are piling up and each one tries to sound bigger and “better” than the previous one. You just sit there watching and listening and wondering.

Wondering? Yes. Wondering.

Wondering, what am I doing sitting here with people who do things and say things that I don’t find appropriate?

What am I doing even being around that kind of talk? Do I stay or do I go?

Do I stay and just sit quietly.

Or do I go? And if I go, do I go loud? Or do I go quiet?

“Hey ya’ll, I forgot that I’ve got to finish a report for a meeting at 3:00, I’m going to go get busy.”

Or

“Hey ya’ll, I don’t know how much of what you’re saying is true, but it bothers me that you talk about __________ that way.”

Suddenly, the conversation stops. Everyone looks at you and it’s quiet for maybe 15 seconds but it seems like forever. Then one of the loud ones starts laughing.

Laughing like you just said the funniest thing in the history of comedy. Laughing because by saying what you did, you revealed to them how different you are.

And it made them uncomfortable. So, they hid it by laughing.

You slowly pack up your lunch stuff and head back to your workspace and get busy doing what you’re supposed to do.

Lunch breaks is over. The gang heads back to work. They walk right past you like you weren’t even there. A couple of them move more slowly and put space between them and the rest. They quietly stop by your space and mumble something like, “thanks for standing up to them” or “I agree with you.”

The day is over, you head home. For devotions that night, you start reading Psalm 1.

“How well God must like you—
you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon,
you don’t slink along Dead-End Road,
you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.”
Psalm 1:1 MSG
https://www.bible.com/97/psa.1.1.msg

So what college did you go to? Did you go to Smart Mouth College?

Do you hang out at Sin Saloon?

What is your Sin Saloon? It’s not the same for everyone.

But we all have one (or more). You know those places, activities, thoughts that you know aren’t good but you find them so hard to leave alone.

But you know you should.

God wants you to.

God wants me to.

TV

Hospitals and Schools and Airports

I find myself fascinated by Hospitals and Schools and Airports.

“That’s really odd,” I can hear you thinking that already. Don’t deny it. 🙂

Why?

What do they have in common?

No, it’s not the size of the buildings.

No, it’s not where they are located.

It doesn’t have anything to do with how much money they make.

Or with how many cool toys there are at each one.

Or whether it’s run by the government or run by a private organization.

That’s not what fascinates me.

“Well then, tell us!”

It’s the stories.

Most of them you don’t know.

But.everyone.has.one.

And they are almost always not nearly as pretty of a story as it looks. And they are always significantly deeper and more varied and complicated than they look.

The “very successful business man” getting on an airplane while carrying his briefcase and talking on his phone (usually too loudly). You can’t see underneath to understand his true story. Maybe he isn’t successful but is trying to look the part. Maybe he’s off to visit another location of his business and eliminate 60 jobs at their plant in California. Maybe he’s…. or maybe he’s going…….

The young mom traveling with two little ones – is she going to visit Grandma? Or Dad? And what has led to this trip?

The family with “similar” looking winter gear on, obviously heading to somewhere with bigger hills than we have to do some winter activities together.

And the doctor walking down the hall at the hospital, she has 7 significantly younger staff (probably residents) following just barely behind her; she’s got a story. A story of good, of sleepless nights wondering if she did “it” right, of successes, of failures. A story of explaining to her kids that she couldn’t do …… Because she had to tend to the needs of someone who……..

The mom being pushed down the hall in a wheelchair holding a new born baby. So much happiness, so much wonder and a good bit of nervousness too. Dad follows behind carrying all of the flowers and balloons while trying to get used to the new name, “Dad.”

The older man with the stooped shoulders trying to navigate how to get to his wife’s hospital room. Worry worn very obviously heavy on his heart.

The elementary school students all full of energy and chaos and questions. What do they take home with them? What stories outside of school impact the way they “do” school?

The middle school students – that awkward phase where you are trying to figure out who you are and what your place in this world is, let alone what place in your school is “your fit.”

You can’t forget the high school students. A conundrum of conflict between the kid that I was and the adult that I think I’m going to be. A time where parents need to work themselves out of a job – and let them grow and think and do for themselves. And that involves pain and struggle and skinned knees and bruised egos and it involves big steps and small steps and closing doors and knocking on new ones.

High School – I’ve heard it said that the only people who like high school are the teachers and staff. I’m not sure that’s true but many of the former high school students I know (present company included) would agree with it.

And then there’s the teachers – Did you know that a math teacher doesn’t really teach math? And a Spanish teacher doesn’t teach Spanish?

That’s right, what they really teach is life. Sure, it’s life through the window of Math, or life through the lens of a foreign language or life through the thoughts and ramblings of Atticus Finch or Shakespeare or Dante. But it’s life they are teaching and the stories they get to see a glimpse of as they do that, it’s an amazing privilege and an awesome experience to see the “lightbulb” go on.

Stories – a multitude of stories. Some happy, some sad. Some strong, some weak. Some simple, some complex. Some wet with tears, some overflowing with laughter.

I look around and I see a whole bunch of people. But even more, I see stories. Everyone has a story. Many of us have many different chapters to our stories.

Most of us aren’t willing to share our stories, and so we keep them stuffed down inside. Sometimes that’s good, other times, if our stories aren’t told, that leads to deeper scars and harder stories.

And each of our stories has something to offer, something to teach, something to encourage others with. But they won’t, if we don’t share them.

That’s why the Facebook page for Humans of New York has over 17 million followers the last time I checked.

17 million – that’s like the entire population of New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago combined.

So share your story. Even if it’s only with one person.

Even if it’s only one chapter of your story. You just might be the boost that that one person needs.

TV

A Legacy

Most of the time, when someone talks about someone “leaving a legacy” it’s usually because they spent money on something big, donated something big, discovered a cure for something really nasty, invented something, those type of “things.”

I want to talk instead about a different type of legacy. It’s not a legacy that has a price tag on it.

It’s not a legacy that you can drive past and remember the person.

It’s not a particular cure for something.

It’s a legacy of faith. A legacy of hard work. A legacy of willingness to follow God’s leading. A legacy of leading and caring and challenging and encouraging.

A legacy of keeping records.

What?

Yeah, that’s right, my Dad kept a very detailed record of and copies of most if not all of his sermons. Hard copies waiting in a filing cabinet in their basement.

Waiting for what?

Waiting for such a time as this.

As we as a family looked at the drawer after drawer of sermons, there seemed to be two questions that came to mind through many of us:

  • How do we keep copies of them for future generations?
  • How do we share them now to keep the work and the caring and the guiding that Dad did alive and use it to encourage others?

We’re working on the technical side of how to keep them for future generations. That is well underway.

And I’m starting the other part.

I have no idea how long it will take, I have no idea where it will go.

One of my Dad’s sermons that is in the top 5 of most remembered sermons is one called, “God moves in Zig Zag Lines.” Because of that, I don’t believe it would be wise for any of us to plan too far in advance on where we start or what parts we move to next or anything like that.

God moves in Zig Zag Lines and we are going to see where we find God leading us.

I hope you’ll stay with us, it’s going to be an interesting journey.

Tom

Where are we going?

“Are we there yet?”

Haven’t we all either said that or heard someone else say that. It would probably rank up there pretty high in a poll for the “most annoying thing ever said in a car.”

As I’m beginning this Spiritual Journey, I’ve been doing a good bit of wrestling with the question, “Where are we going? And also the question, “Are we there yet?”

The answer that I’ve come up with can work for both of those questions and can be spelled out in three words:

I

Don’t

Know

I don’t know where we are going on this spiritual journey. If my Dad were still here and I could ask him if his ministry went in the direction he thought it would, I know he would say that it hasn’t. There are many things that happened during my dad’s ministry that far exceeded what he originally thought they would when he was back in Seminary.

So, I don’t know where we’re going, and I don’t know when we’ll get there.

I don’t even know if there is a “there” here.

The journey is the goal. The destination is not somewhere to go, the destination is to be on the journey.

I hope you’ll join me.

Tom